Can you fire a cheater in the workplace over an affair? A chump boss wants to know.
Dear Chump Lady,
It seems that many of us accept cheating in our midst without standing up and doing anything about it. In my workplace, one of my employees was actively having an affair. I didn’t know what the hell to do about it. Fire her? Call her on it? Phone up her husband (who she had just married months before)?. In the end I did nothing. Time took care of it and everything blew up and she is now divorced and living with the affair partner.
But I feel like I should have done something.
Probably because I was a chump and so many people knew about my ex and his affair partner for YEARS and nobody said anything until one day when my best friend noticed that he drove down a certain road in my area all the time and wondered out loud to me about where he was going? (I drove by the OW’s house and saw his truck….the beginning of discovery).
I feel that cheating is quite accepted in our society and in fact glamorized to a certain degree. When I have discussions with people who have not experienced cheating or cheated themselves, cheating to them is “whatever”. But it sure is a different story when I talk to people who have been cheated on…..whoa, that shit sandwich never goes away.
What do you think?
Should we stand up and yell “cheater, cheater” when we become aware of a cheating FW or just stand by and let it take its course? Should I fire my cheater employee?
I fielded this one to Mr. CL, who is an employment lawyer, on the question of if you can fire an employee for being a cheater. (Disclaimer — this is not legal advice, I’m not a lawyer, I’m a chump, so get proper legal counsel. Mr. CL is speaking generally and is not your lawyer.)
It depends on several factors (standard lawyer response, right?). They need
to seek the advice of an employment lawyer in the state where they live.
If they are a union employee, their collective bargaining agreement likely
gives them rights above and beyond the typical “employment at will” employee
(i.e., can only be fired “for cause”). If they’re not a union employee, in
TEXAS, it would NOT be illegal per se to fire someone for infidelity. But
you have to be careful to be consistent to avoid creating the appearance of
discrimination based on a protected factor. For instance, you can’t just
fire the cheating men, but not the cheating women, which might draw a lawsuit
for gender discrimination. FWIW, I’ve heard stories (unconfirmed) that it
was the policy of Ross Perot’s company, EDS, to fire employees whom it
learned were cheating under the rationale that any person who would betray
their spouse would betray their employer.
Also, it’s not unusual when the affair is between two employees to just fire
them both for creating a personally unsustainable situation at work (e.g.,
Marsha won’t talk to John, because he dumped her, and John is perceived as
playing favorites with Jill because they’re known to be dating). But to fire
one and not the other (e.g., the man but not woman, or visa versa) would be
My advice? Judge people at work based on how they perform at work. PERIOD.
Anything else is asking for trouble. Once again the rules applies: If it feels good, don’t do it.
But you don’t have to like her.
So, sorry. It sounds like you have to keep working with Miss Cheaterpants. But you have my permission to dislike her and give her as many status report assignments as you want. Maybe insist that she write all her business correspondence in Comic Sans 24 pt. type. Or declare that the dress code now include clown shoes… But only for her job.
Oops. But that would feel good, so on the advice of my lawyer — don’t do it.
Take sides in your personal life.
If you want to fire a cheater in your personal life? Sure. Go for it. It might make you unpopular, but hopefully not with the chump. (Although there are the sorts that want to kill the messenger, which is a risk you have to consider.) I think it’s perfectly okay to not be “neutral” when a friend divorces over infidelity. You don’t have to buy the narrative that the cheater is spinning, and if they try it on you, to say “Oh really? I heard you were fucking strangers you met on Craigslist. Huh. Funny how folks grow apart…”
You only control YOU. That’s it. You want to call out cheaters? Go for it. Bring a megaphone if you want. But you can’t expect other people to join you in your outrage. If they haven’t lived it, they probably don’t get it. And if they don’t have the empathy to imagine it? There isn’t a megaphone loud enough for them to hear it. I’m sorry.